Stranded dolphin ‘Feeny’ dies at Mote Marine

Mote Marine Laboratory staff helps stranded dolphin Feeny. Mote Marine Laboratory photo

SARASOTA, Fla. — Mote Marine Laboratory is sad to announce that Feeny, the adult male bottlenose dolphin that stranded Sept. 17 in Tampa Bay and was transported to Mote to receive critical care passed away Sunday, Oct. 11.

On Sept. 17, Feeny arrived in critical condition and initial examinations and testing showed he was underweight and showed signs of infection, anemia, dehydration and pneumonia as well as other metabolic abnormalities.

“Even though Feeny started eating and swimming on his own, we know that wild animals need to mask their illnesses for survival.  Any animal under our care is considered critical until the moment of their release,” said Lynne Byrd, Mote’s Rehabilitation and Medical Care Coordinator.

PHOTOS: Mote Marine Cares for Stranded Dolphin ‘Feeny’

Feeny had first been identified as an adult in 1988 by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, which is a collaboration between Mote Marine Laboratory and the Chicago Zoological Society.  This gives an indication that he was at least in his 30s when he was transported to Mote’s animal hospital.

Since Feeny’s arrival, Mote staff and volunteers provided ‘round-the-clock intensive care. Staff conducted diagnostic tests such as blood work and ultrasounds, constantly monitored the animal’s status, provided antibiotics, fluids and other critical life support, and kept the animal as comfortable as possible.

The Mote staff and volunteers showed tremendous dedication, compassion and skill in providing critical care to this animal in need. We are saddened at this loss, but are thankful for all the help and support.

Early Friday morning, Oct. 9, the animal’s health took a sudden downward turn and he was unable to recover. About 1 a.m. Friday morning, he became disoriented and started to lean to one side. Results from ultrasound examinations and blood sample tests revealed that the animal’s blood cells were not regenerating. The animal was also losing weight, which was unusual because of his high-calorie food intake.

“Blood work and other tests showed that the dolphin was very sick and in general, when marine animals strand, it typically indicates health issues or injuries that interfere with the animal’s normal behavior and survival abilities,” said Andy Stamper, Mote’s consulting veterinarian.

“It was always our hope to return Feeny to the wild. Sadly, even with our best efforts, it is sometimes just their time. Our team has extensive experience treating sick and injured marine wildlife and we worked 24-hours a day to provide the most humane treatment for Feeny and doing what was in his best interest,” Byrd said.

Feeny’s cause of death is unknown at this time. Mote staff will perform a necropsy, which is similar to an animal autopsy, to try to determine why Feeny stranded.  The necropsy may not lead to the cause of death and several samples will be collected and sent to various labs for further analyses.  It could take several weeks to months to get a full picture of what led Feeny to strand.

Necropsy findings help scientists evaluate long-term mortality trends of marine animals, especially those relating to disease, injuries and manmade threats such as boat strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Findings offer vital information for resource managers working to protect marine animals.

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